By Monica C. Nkenganyi
AmbaNews24 Correspondent – New York, USA
For the second time in just under a month, the crisis in Ambazonia has surfaced in the agenda of the UN Security Council in New York, as the Cameroon government of Paul Biya has intensified the killings and destruction of properties in a senseless war that it declared on the people of Ambazonia. Following the unprecedented meeting of last May 13th, 2019 sponsored by the USA, the recent 8538th meeting of the UNSC on June 4, 2019 came at the behest of some international NGO’s, and saw China and the United States taking opposing positions over the security situation in Ambazonia. The meeting was presided by Mansour Ayyad Alotaibi of Kuwait, the Council’s President for June, and focused on the security situation in the Central African Region
After FRANÇOIS LOUNCÉNY FALL, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), called on the international community to find a political solution to the Ambazonia independence struggle, China claimed that Cameroon was not on the UNSC agenda; therefore, not relevant to the discussions on security in the region. The Chinese government claimed that the situation in Ambazonia does not pose a threat to international and/or regional peace and security.
However, observers have cautioned that such a self-serving claim is flimsy and visibly obstructionists. Cameroon is geographically in the Central African region and whatever happens in Cameroon logically can disrupt the peace of the region.
China, that has some very shady business practices with the Paul Biya dictatorship is increasingly concerned that if Ambazonia becomes sovereign, Cameroon may not be economically viable enough to pay its US $3Billion debt to China. China is also using this obstructionism to please Cameroon in exchange for keeping partial control of the Kribi Port, and access to oil and pipelines.
The USA was not pleased with this blind focus on short-term advantages over long term solutions that address the human rights and humanitarian situations in Ambazonia. Matters of humanitarian and human rights law are international by nature, and as such their enforcement cannot be obstructed by claims of sovereignty and territorial integrity by regimes that violate these laws.
The USA began its remarks with Cameroon on the spotlight. It pointed out the needs of internally displaced persons and was emphatic in calling for the respect of international humanitarian and l human rights law. The US representative lambasted corruption and obstruction that are preventing aid from getting to populations in need. “This must stop now!” said Rodney Hunter, Counselor for Political Affairs of the U.S Mission to the UN. Humanitarian interventions in the crisis should respect the principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. He further condemned the Cameroon government’s denial of access to human rights organizations staff to investigate the human rights atrocities that have become rampant in Ambazonia.
Contrary to the assertion by Cameroon’s Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute, to the effect that the Cameroon government will dialogue with anyone and on all possible outcomes of the conflict except with separatists and on the subject of “secession or separation” respectively, the USA stated emphatically that “the international community will support dialogue between the Cameroon government and separatists”.
Prior to the UN Security Council meeting, seven human rights organizations on May 31, 2019 petitioned all fifteen UNSC members to “pay particular attention to the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in Cameroon.” These organizations include Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT-France), Amnesty International, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights Watch, Nouveaux Droits de l’Homme Cameroun, Presbyterian Church (USA), World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), and Réseau des Défenseurs des Droits Humains en Afrique Centrale (REDHAC).
The seven human rights organizations noted that “Civil society organizations and national and international human rights and humanitarian groups reported that government forces have killed civilians, torched villages, and used torture and incommunicado detention with near total impunity.” While pointing out kidnapping of civilians for ransom by opportunists disguising as separatists who have taken advantage of the instability to enrich themselves, the petitioners decried the detention of at least four journalists by the Cameroun government for reporting on the Ambazonia freedom struggle.
The organizations made five salient recommendations to the UN Security Council as it prepared to meet for the UNOCA briefing. These included:· The UN Security Council should hold regular formal briefings and discussions on the situation in Cameroon and formally add it to its agenda. It should request the UN Secretary-General and key senior
UN officials – especially the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – to report regularly on developments in Cameroon.
· While we should not wait for the region to mobilize before acting in New York, the African Union and Economic Community of Central African States should engage with Cameroon’s government and armed separatists in order to prevent any further deterioration of the crisis in the Anglophone regions. In this context, the African countries on the Council have a crucial role to play in facilitating mediation efforts.
· The lack of access for international human rights and humanitarian organizations to Cameroon and its affected regions remains disturbing. The government of Cameroon should allow unhindered access to international and national human rights organizations.
· Cameroon’s partners should ensure that any support to Cameroonian security forces does not contribute to or facilitate human rights violations. The UN Security Council, with the support of the OHCHR, should urge the Cameroon authorities to investigate members of the security forces alleged to have carried out human rights abuses and prosecute those responsible. It should also publicly announce to armed separatist groups that their leaders will be held responsible for serious crimes committed by their fighters.
· The international community should encourage mediation between Anglophone communities [Ambazonians] and the government, as well as an inclusive national dialogue in order to find a lasting and sustainable solution to the crisis, which addresses root causes and underlying grievances.
Ambazonia Defense Forces are facing a brutal Cameroun military in the struggle for the independence and sovereignty of Ambazonia. The organizations say the ongoing conflict has displaced more than 560,000 Ambazonians from their homes, including 32, 000 who have fled to Nigeria as refugees.